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Swizec Teller - a geek with a

Cool thing Thursday: Emacs tramp-mode

When does an Emacs user use Vim? To change a server config via ssh.


Ha, haha! Ha! Awesome joke ... it's funny because it's true! It hurts so much :(

I've been an emacs user for a while now. Still don't know all the keyboard shortcuts, text selection still confuses me to no end and I still think the Ctrl+W command to cut is rather unfortunate because I keep clsoing windows in other environments.

But I love Emacs to bits!

The main reason I started using this operating system is that I don't have to think about code indentation. Almost any language I dare use, Emacs knows how to indent code according to community standards. You might need to install something called a major mode for the language, but hey - package management system!

If you haven't tried coding without thinking about indentation before, you really should. It's marvelous, lets you focus on the important stuff.

That said ... I always used vim via ssh. Always. Perhaps a remnant from my times before Emacs, when I thought Vim was the default thing you use when working without a GUI. Yes, I'm not a neckbeard, I like my GUI and non-tiling window managers to write code.

Enter tramp-mode

Over the past few weeks I've been working on a project that frowns upon the idea of working locally - something about data security when dealing with banking-like systems. Whatever.

The only access to my code was the humble ssh. Now fucking what?

Running emacs via ssh -X was painfully slow. Using Vim for more than config editing? Surely, you're joking [mr. Feynman]!?

After a week of miserably living my life via ssh -X I finally broke down and googled for a solution. Took me long enough ... My surprisingly short search (took me all of 10 minutes) discovered something called tramp-mode - a remote-editing mode for emacs.

Since emacs22 it comes bundled with the basic install, so there's no need to add anything.

It. Is. Amazing.

C-x C-f // and away we go. Enter username@ (lovingly autocompleted by the file finder thingy), add the hostname (also autocompleted). Asks for the password and voila, I'm browsing a remote computer via ssh.

From what I understand, tramp-mode doesn't actually keep you connected via ssh for live editing on the remote machine. That would be slow, a TCP round-about for every keystroke ... no good. Instead it uses scp to copy files locally, let you edit them and when you save the file is copied back into its original location.

For added awesomeness, C-x C-f undestands you're editing remotely so it always starts finding files relative to the remote location.

Magic. All the flexibility of editing locally, all the whatever-you-need-this-for of secure remote connections.


But I will still edit configs with Vim. It's only natural.

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Published on December 6th, 2012 in Control key, Emacs, Emacs Lisp, Keyboard shortcut, Programming, Text editor, Uncategorized, Vim

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